RED WARNING UP ANEW ON CAPITAL
Millions of Metro Manila residents battled deadly floods yesterday amid relentless monsoon rains, with neck-deep waters trapping slum dwellers and the wealthy on roofs, but weather agency Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the ordeal had not ended as it raised the rainfall warning signal late yesterday afternoon from green to red over Metro Manila, as it warned of more intense rainfall in most parts of the capital.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, amid the continuing disaster, urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to expedite the release of the “pork barrel” of lawmakers for them to attend to the needs of their constituents, particularly those affected by the recent torrential rains.
At least 20 people have died while more than one million others have been affected by torrential rains spawned by an enhanced southwest monsoon, triggering massive flooding and landslides in Metro Manila and nearby provinces in Central and Southern Luzon regions.
Pagasa upgraded the green warning signal issued at past 3 p.m. to a red warning signal later in the afternoon as it noted torrential to intense rainfall over much of Metro Manila.
The red warning signal means the public should expect heavy to intense rainfall from 16 mm to 30mm per hour.
Pagasa, which issued a red warning signal at 4:30 p.m. also said residents in high-risk areas should take precautionary measures and watch out for the next warning.
The state weather observed torrential rainfall of from 30 to 50 millimeters per hour (mm/hr) over Quezon City, Manila and Marikina, heavy to intense rainfall (15 to 30 mm/hr) over Pasig, Camavana, Taguig and Pasay while moderate to heavy rainfall (7.5 to 15 mm/hr) over the rest of Metro Manila.
Pagasa added that due to the effect of the series of thunderstorms embedded in the southwest monsoon, expect heavy to intense or from 15 to 30 mm/hr rains with occasional torrential (more than 30 mm/hr) rains within two hours.
The weather agency said that as of 5:45 p.m. a sudden downpour of heavy to torrential rains were experienced during the past two to three hours in most parts of Metro Manila and some surrounding areas.
“The rains were caused by the occurence of a series of thunderstorms which is commonly associated with rains of high intensity,” Pagasa said on its twitter account.
In its 5 p.m. advisory, Pagasa said that the southwest monsoon is still affecting Luzon as it is experiencing occasional rain becoming frequent over the western section which may trigger flashfloods and landslides.
The coastal waters in Luzon and Western Visayas will be moderate to rough.
Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the south to southwest with slight to moderate seas.
Sixty percent of Manila remained under water and vast tracts of surrounding farmland were also submerged as the deluge stretched into its third day, according to the government.
“The roads in some areas are like rivers. People have to use boats to move around. All the roads and alleys are flooded,” civil defence chief Benito Ramos told Agence France Presse after surveying the megacity of 15 million people from the air.
The death toll from this week’s rain in Manila and nearby provinces rose to 20 on Wednesday after four more people drowned, according to authorities.
This brought the confirmed number of people killed across the country since a typhoon triggered heavy rains in late July to 73.
State weather forecasters said more than 27 inches of rain, well over the average for all of August, had fallen in 48 hours, and warned of more to come overnight Wednesday.
The worst hit parts of Manila were mostly the poorest districts, where millions of slum dwellers have built homes along riverbanks, the swampy surrounds of a huge lake, canals and other areas susceptible to flooding.
In Santo Domingo, a creekside shantytown, mother-of-three Anita Alterano recounted how her family escaped the floods that submerged their one-storey home by walking over the roofs of houses until they reached high ground.
Some of Manila’s richest districts were also affected, including the riverside community of Provident where water had inundated the ground floors of three-storey mansions.
Inside the gated village of about 2,000 homes, rescue workers on a motorized rubber boat drove past submerged luxury cars to retrieve children and the elderly from rooftops.
Across Manila and surrounding areas, 1.23 million people were affected by the floods, 850,000 of whom had to flee their submerged homes, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Nearly 250,000 of them were sheltering in schools, gymnasiums and other buildings that have been turned into evacuation centres, while others were staying with relatives and friends, the council said.
Belmonte, meanwhile, said that he is launching a fund campaign for the flood victims.
“I am appealing to Malacanang to release the congressional allocations of my colleagues to address the various problems as an offshoot of the widespread flooding that hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces,” Belmonte said in a chance interview with House reporters yesterday.
He said that the fund drive could immediately respond to the needs of the flood victims even as he stressed the need for the government to relocate informal settlers along the river banks.
“We should continue with our efforts to clean our riverbanks by removing and transferring all informal settlers,” Belmonte added.
Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay agreed with Belmonte as she asked the government to also invest more on dredging rivers.
“We also need to dredge our rivers to avert heavy and widespread flooding,” said Magsaysay as she welcomed government’s decision to increase by 40 percent the flood control funds from P12.32 billion this year to P17 billion under P2.006-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) 2013.
Magsaysay has been complaining that she has not received her congressional allocation for the past several years.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Undersecretary Ramos described as “wide” the effects of continuous downpour during the past days in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjacent areas.
Ramos, along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, yesterday conducted an aerial inspection within Metro Manila to assess the extent of the effects of the torrential rains triggered by an enhanced southwest monsoon.
The NDRRMC chief particularly noted the massive effects by the rains in Camanava area or the northern part of NCR.
“We saw Camanava area...where the sea and the flooding became one. You cannot distinguish the sea from the flood. The effect is wide,” said Ramos
Ramos, however, said there were only a few sighted residents on top of their roofs.
While noting that flooding in some areas have already subsided, some areas remained “isolated” as they continue to submerge under floodwater and bringing relief goods is a problem for government authorities.
As of press time yesterday, Ramos said that 11 people, nine of whom were pinned down by a landslide in Quezon City on Tuesday, have been confirmed dead while four others were injured.
The NDRRMC also reported that a total of 267,850 families composed of 1,230,813 persons from Regions I, III, IV-A, IV-B and the National Capital Region have been affected by the flooding and landslides.
Of the number, some 53,258 families or 242,211 individuals are now staying inside 614 evacuation centers.
Ramos also noted that flooding and landslides have rendered a total of 126 roads in the affected regions impassable.
In the NCR, at least 17 areas remained flooded while 49 in Region III and 21 in Region IV-A.
Major dams in Luzon areas, namely, Ipo, La Mesa, Ambuklao, Binga and San Roque, continued to release excess water as of 5 a.m. yesterday.
A government worker told President Aquino in a televised disaster management meeting that the biggest problem for the relief effort was getting enough volunteers to deliver food, water and other emergency supplies.
Despite the chaos, the government ordered its employees and private sector workers back to their jobs on Wednesday, after closing down on Tuesday, while the stock market resumed trading.
The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons each rainy season, many of which are deadly.
But this week’s floods in Manila were the worst in the capital since 2009, when Tropical Storm Ketsana killed more than 460 people.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said the minimal death toll despite the two-week continuous monsoon rains in Metro Manila and nearby provinces indicated that local government units (LGUs) and their constituents are now more prepared and resilient in confronting such life-threatening situations.
President Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, DILG Secretary Robredo, Defense Secretary Gazmin, DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino, NDRRM chairman Ramos, Science Secretary Mario Montejo, among others, met at the NDRRMC office at Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday to assess the flooding situation and provide government assistance to all affected areas in the country.
The Philippine Red Cross stepped up its rescue and relief operations for flood-stricken families rescuing a total of 1,047 persons, and assisting in the evacuation of more than 8,000 individuals with the help of Red Cross 143 volunteers. Persons rescued were from Valenzuela, Rizal, Caloocan, Manila and other affected areas.
The Quezon City Red Cross assisted in the search and rescue of the victims of the landslides in Commonwealth where three persons were given first aid and transported to nearby hospital.
The Red Cross as well has provided hot meals to more than 7,500 persons in various evacuation centers.
PRC chairman Richard Gordon has directed Red Cross to deploy all life-saving equipment such as amphibian, rubber boats, ambulances and trucks and intensify further its rescue and relief operations to assist more people, especially in worst hit areas.
In an emailed statement, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that the decision to order work resumption was the consensus reached by the President, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council, after getting an advisory from the government weather bureau which issued a forecast of an expected tamed weather for Wednesday. Gina Peralta-Elorde, Pat C. Santos, Efren B. Chavez, Fernan J. Angeles and Jason Faustino